Is Anger Getting in the Way of You Feeling Truly Connected with Your Loved Ones?
How often do you find yourself feeling frustrated, upset, or outright angry with your partner? That strong urge bubbles up (you know the one)… willing you to lash out with harsh words, to make them feel as hurt as you do. Or maybe you find yourself mid way through a heated argument before you even notice what you’ve said. It’s ok; we’ve all been there.
Anger. A wonderful yet forceful emotion, that protects us from those that threaten us or our loved ones. And yet, it can also damage our relationships with those we hold most dear. Anger is an emotion that’s strong and easy to identify, which unfortunately means we can struggle to identify other emotions that might be present when it comes up. As a result anger can become a default emotion - the one we express most readily when something goes wrong.
The problem is, when we’re angry we communicate in a way that shuts the other person down. When our partners feel attacked they automatically become defensive, and respond with anger in turn. It backs us into opposite corners, when we really need to come together, to work out how to resolve the issue at hand. Over time, the use of anger as a go-to communication strategy, can back us further into our corners, breeding contempt and hostility (the most destructive emotions we can foster in a relationship).
Anger is primarily there to protect us when feeling vulnerable, and yet we know that being able to access and show our vulnerability is key to connecting with others. When we are able to look past the anger, usually there are some other emotions, such as sadness, disappointment, or loneliness. If we're able to communicate why it is that we are upset, we can soften, come together, and solve the problem more effectively. It also means that we can build a better understanding of ourselves and our partners, resulting in a more compassionate relationship.
So next time you notice your blood pressure on the rise, take a step back… take a few deep breaths and check in with yourself. What is it that you really want your partner to know? My bet is it’s not that that they’re a terrible so-and-so, but actually that when they say or do “X, Y or Z”, it makes you feel sad or disrespected/ignored/hurt/disappointed. Usually when we talk about these softer emotions, our partners open a little to communicating rather than defending themselves. Once they’ve opened up a little, it can be helpful to be clear about what you want them to do rather than what you don’t want them to do, so instead of going with the default “you always get … wrong”, it can help to reframe this as “It would be really nice if you could do …, as it makes me feel valued/heard/considered/cared about”.
It can be disarming to do the opposite of anger - anger pulls us apart, while compassion brings us back together. And let’s face it, most of the time we are angry because we want to be closer, more connected, and more understood. Although it can be hard when we are feeling angry, pulling together rather than pushing apart, can be amazingly powerful in short circuiting the spiral of anger. We can pull together by giving them a hug or a kiss, reflecting on our shared goals, seeking to understand their position or owning and apologising for our own behaviour.
If you want to go with the urge of anger and let the insults fly… be prepared for the consequences. Not only does this lead to defensiveness and more anger… but we often feel worse afterwards. So if you want to be more effective, take a mindful pause, check in with yourself, tell them how you feel (under the anger), be clear about what you’d like to change and seek to pull together rather than push apart.
With Warmth, K & A xx